The basement of the historic, Grade II listed Senate House was used by the University of London as a storage space and they wanted to get more use out of the space by consolidating non-teaching staff from across the university in a series of light-filled, dedicated working spaces.
A large part of the brief was creating a new indoor space from the previously external courtyard, which involved building a new atrium roof. The space was to be as open as possible to encourage collaboration and connection between the different departments.
As the building is listed, the new spaces had to reference the old in a bid to marry the building’s rich history with the new modern elements. Spacelab also conducted in-depth analysis into the way the staff and space work to facilitate and encourage movement within and between the new spaces.
The design Spacelab came up with was centred around a 20m long atrium, snaking its way through the heart of the building, creating a space for touch-down benches, breakout spaces and working booths.
The original space was pretty run-down and incredibly dingy, so a fully-glazed roof was the order of the day, albeit one with a rather unique design.
Each of the 107 panels that make up this 140m² behemoth was uniquely shaped to fit into the completely bespoke steel frame and over 20 linear metres of sealant bonds them to the framework.
To make things even more challenging, each piece had to be fitted in a precise order, as the steelwork shrunk as it settled in place. The first 100 panels took around four days to fit and the last seven took almost as long, as the steel frame had contracted by around 50mm.
The detailing of the project also required some outside the box solutions, as the undulating roof met the surrounding wall at different angles at either end. Therefore, each glass panel on the end was stepped to unique dimensions to ensure a snug fit.
The space has been completely transformed by Cantifix and Spacelab and is virtually unrecognisable from the dingy, underused courtyard thanks to Spacelab’s innovative yet sensitive design and Cantifix’s expertise in realising incredibly complex solutions.
More than creating a new space, the brief here was to encourage a cooperative, flexible working culture and the flowing, multi-use spaces created at Senate House are perfect for engendering this modern approach to working and collaborating.